Based on recent reports emerging from Malaysian news outlets1,2, the Malaysian Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, has unexpectedly indicated that the import and use of products containing cannabis for medicinal purposes is permitted in Malaysia, provided such products comply with current Malaysian laws relating to drugs and therapeutic goods.
Cannabis is currently listed as a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which forms part of a suite of legislative instruments that control the use of illicit substances under Malaysian law (also Poisons Act 1952 and the Sale of Drugs Act 1952). Under these provisions, possession of 20 g to 50 g of cannabis may be punishable with imprisonment for 2 to 5 years, fines and/or corporal punishment. Possession of >200 g of cannabis is presumed to be trafficking, which, until recently, was punishable by the death penalty. Despite many years of active and publicised enforcement of these laws, Mr Khairy has submitted a parliamentary reply tabled on 9 November 2021, which includes statements that the laws regulating cannabis in Malaysia do not prohibit its medicinal use.
The initial details of the framework for the importation and sale of medicinal cannabis products indicate that Malaysia will adopt a relatively strict approach, whereby medicinal cannabis products will only be available with a prescription issued by a registered medical practitioner or licenced pharmacist. Further, the importation and sale of medicinal cannabis products will only be permitted following evaluation and registration of such products by the Drug Control Authority (DCA) under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetics Regulation 1984.
While it is yet to be seen how the Malaysian government will formally enact these changes, the softening of the position on cannabis to permit medicinal use reflects the fundamental shift in the perception of cannabis as a narcotic throughout South-East Asia. This change in direction represents an exciting opportunity for those with existing or developing medicinal cannabis products and IP portfolios to extend their commercial activities in Asia, including Thailand, South Korea, and now Malaysia. If you have any questions in relation to commercialisation or opportunities to pursue patent protection for medicinal cannabis products and technologies in Malaysia, our experts at DCC would be pleased to assist.
1. “KJ delivers breakthrough news – medical marijuana products permissible”, Malaysiakini, Malaysia, 9 November 2021, https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/598538.
2. Loheswar, “Khairy: Medical marijuana can be used in Malaysia if it passes national regulations”, Malay Mail, 9 November 2021, https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2021/11/09/khairy-medical-marijuana-can-be-used-in-malaysia-if-it-passes-national-regu/2019592.
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